By Chuck Kingsbury, SEC Country:
We’re just days away from the annual Iron Bowl between No. 2 Alabama (10-1, 6-1 SEC) and Auburn (6-5, 2-5 SEC). Of course, several notable recruits will be in attendance, as confirmed by SEC Country here, while many will be tuning in elsewhere. SEC Country polled a few commits and targets from both programs for their prediction of Saturday’s game. Check them out below:
By David Paschall, timesfreepress.com:
November hasn’t always been the friendliest month for Alabama football in the Nick Saban era. “We put a big emphasis on trying to finish the year better,” Saban said this week in a news conference. “We made some adjustments in how we prepare and how we try to keep our players fresh, and we’ve also tried some things to psychologically keep them where they need to be to have the best opportunity to finish. “I also think internally from inside out that the players themselves have affected each other in a positive way to try to finish the season the way they want, and that’s probably the most important thing.” Alabama began this month with a 30-16 thumping of No. 2 LSU and followed that with a 31-6 whipping of No. 20 Mississippi State.
By John Talty, al.com:
Nick Saban has accomplished so much in Tuscaloosa that any slight blemish is magnified. The Iron Bowl is one of those supposed blemishes for the Alabama head coach. Saban is 5-3 in his eight games against Auburn since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007. That’s a .625 winning percentage in one of the nation’s best rivalries. You don’t have to be good at math to realize that’s good. Yet, it’s not as good as his 8-0 record against Tennessee or his five-game winning streak against LSU dating back to the 2012 national championship. His dominance over LSU is a big reason Les Miles might be coaching his last season in Baton Rouge, according to multiple reports.
By Christopher Walsh, Bleacher Report:
It was a play that no one watching will ever forget, now simply known as the “Kick Six.” Saturday, Alabama returns to the scene of the crime, if you will, Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the 2013 game between the No. 1 and No. 4 teams determined which between them would have a chance to win the Southeastern Conference and national championships. Similar to 2013, and nearly every other year since Saban arrived in 2007, a lot’s at stake for No. 2 Alabama: another division title, another trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game and potentially more. It’s also Auburn, and while the Tigers would like nothing more than to derail another Crimson Tide season and hurt running back Derrick Henry’s chances of winning the Heisman Trophy, the rivalry alone makes this a different game.
By Bill Connelly, sbnation.com:
Losses matter. That LSU has lost three in a row and is on pace to finish unranked for a second straight year is why, if you believe the apparently well-placed rumors, Les Miles is in his final days in Baton Rouge. Over the last three Saturdays, LSU lost to three good teams (Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss) by a combined margin of 99-47. The offense and defense bottomed out simultaneously. LSU allowed 7.9 yards per play to Arkansas and 6.7 to Ole Miss, and after averaging 193 yards per game and 7.7 yards per carry in the seven wins, one-time Heisman favorite Leonard Fournette has averaged only 77 and 3.7 in November.
By Alex Martin Smith, SECcountry:
Following up on Monday’s positive injury report, Alabama coach Nick Saban had great news about offensive tackle Dominick Jackson (ankle) and cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick (knee) on Wednesday night. “They both practiced the whole time,” Saban said, “and they’re fine and, we think, ready to play.”
By Christopher Walsh, Bleacher Report:
Back at the beginning of training camp, University of Alabama senior linebacker Reggie Ragland gave Cyrus Jones a goal to shoot for on punt returns this season: eight touchdowns. Jones pretty much said “OK,” only now Ragland is looking for him to make good on it. He notched two on Saturday against Charleston Southern, making him the first player to do so since Alabama started keeping track in 1944. His season total of three leads the nation. “He’s starting to get into a groove,” Ragland said. The same could be said of the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide (10-1) as a whole.
By Michael Casagrande, al.com:
Run the darn ball. At least a variation of that’s echoed through living rooms, chat rooms and every other structure containing Alabama fans this fall. And they have. Derrick Henry’s on pace to smash school records while leading the Crimson Tide to a No. 2 ranking. He’s this year’s Amari Cooper, effectively. But what about the Alabama passing game? It’s playing more of a supporting role entering the 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday Iron Bowl. There’s a conservative tilt to the passes thrown as they’ve become almost a diversion to keep defenses from keying on Henry. Since attempting a school-record 59 passes in the loss to Ole Miss, Alabama’s thrown no more than 33 in a game since. A year ago, with Cooper headlining Alabama’s offense, it averaged 32.8 passes a game entering the Iron Bowl.
By Reggie Anderson, WLTX:
The newest name being mentioned as the leading candidate for the USC job is Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Smart’s name moved into the role of clubhouse leader after Houston’s Tom Herman removed his name from consideration.